Shedding Sugar Coats for Beer Jackets

I stood perfectly still, bracing myself against the kitchen sink. The white tiles had been ice cold at first but were warming fast under my tight grip. ‘And then Moses walked in’, I wrote in my head.

I’m always writing, didn’t you know?

I wasn’t sure if my hands clutched the countertop to keep from leaving or to keep from falling… but really, I snorted to myself, it didn’t fucking matter. The left arm ached numbly, and I felt the right one naturally make a slight adjustment to accommodate its companion’s continued weakness. I kept my chin jutted up, back straight, not a muscle of movement— I continued my gaze through the large kitchen window that overlooked the backyard I’d spent my childhood. For a brief moment I saw it haunted by three little blond ghosts, chasing each other around a small orange slide…

It was supposed to be satisfying, to finally be still again.

Why are you so restless? I asked myself.

Why?” came the question again, but this time out loud and from the dining room table. My eyes pulled from the dried, yellowing grass my mother had given up on months ago, and turned to finally face Annika. Patiently and kindly, she was sitting in one of our four white wooden chairs a couple yards from me, her eyes fixed cautiously on my figure. She wasn’t on her phone, wasn’t fiddling with any of the loose-leaf paper on our circular dining table. Her hands were playing softly with each other on her lap; her body language said she wasn’t going anywhere. Her eyes held a strong, intense softness so familiar that I suddenly felt 5 years old again, pestered by the genuine curiosity of my younger sister. And—as when I was 5— I wasn’t sure I wanted to answer.

But I wasn’t 5. I was 23. I was gonna handle this.

“Why am I so lonely, you mean?”

“Well, yeah.”

I was torn between mad at myself for sharing a darkness and relieved I’d choked out my most tar-like of Truths. I knew that Lonliness—whenever it chose to take a bite out of me— rediscovered the taste of my torment. And I was feeling eaten alive by my ugliest inner-most monster, despite not having seen it in a great while.

Right there. Right in the middle of the kitchen. Invisibly being consumed where everyone could see.

I didn’t know the answer to her question. ‘And then Moses walked in’ I wrote, to distract myself.

I shook my head, still stuck on a story I hadn’t finished yet. I was stuck on several stories I hadn’t finished yet, actually…

I ripped myself from the distraction of them. Don’t write other stories when you need to be right here.

“I don’t know.” I mumbled to the dead lawn, stepping back from the counter to face her (and the question) full on. “I’ve been through a lot these past couple weeks, I guess. And I’ve met a lot of incredible people throughout my trips. Lots of new faces, new souls. And I’ve been more places in the last month than I’ve ever been in my entire life, my abroad trip included. And yet…” I sighed, using the lengthy breath as a whisper of a sword, a feeble attack on the air before facing Lonely and Annika with the clumsy word weapons I’d yet to refine, yet to blacksmith to perfection.

Move forward with honesty, Katrina. Attack this without reserve, do it different this time. I met her gaze—blue-grey eyes to blue-grey eyes—and it poured out:

“Where’s the person who’s always around? I’m tired, Annika…tired of falling in love so often. Don’t laugh, I don’t even mean with just boys— even with girlfriends too.” This isn’t coming out right. “It’d be nice to have someone… close by, next to me, who knows what I’ve been through without me having to rehash my life story all over again. I’ve met so many incredible people, Annika, and every time I get caught with a chance at letting someone get to know me all the way, I….

I fail, I do. I don’t trust myself anymore. I just want one person to hear my heart, full and through… and trust that it’ll be worth it, because they’ll be around tomorrow.
I want someone’s easiest Forever. Is that too much to ask?”

Here it was. I was on a roll. I was easily brushing ‘And then Moses walked in’ to the back of my mind as one brushes away of wisps of their own smoke; I was finally addressing someone with an aching something and had no time for the ever-dancing, other unfinished stories that spun at forefront of my brain to distract me from real problems. The focused train of thought was speeding out of my mouth, and it showed no signs of slowing. I was pacing in the kitchen now, racing to keep up with my accelerated feelings.

“Just someone I don’t have to travel miles to see! Someone I don’t have to go weeks without! I’m tired of friend after friend becoming pen-pal after pen-pal! I don’t like writing that much! Annika, I just want one best friend who isn’t a phone call and 9 scheduling problems away! I FUCKING HATE TEXTING!

The release of my harshly-constructed-but-no-less-sharp word-arrows felt amazing—arching perfectly in rhythm to my raising voice—and I laughed quickly at the ridiculousness of the outburst, adding a new desperation to my pitch.

And I once had that, though!”

I looked at Annika, who still hadn’t moved, and motioned to a far-off world behind her. “I did! I know I was only gone for a couple weeks but Annika— it felt like I was gone forever! And I had a family at all times in Rwanda! And before that, all those months group goddamn therapy, every FUCKING day?!” At that my eyes grew wide, my jaw dropped, and I threw my hands up in surrender. My left one throbbed.  “Jesus Christ, I’m starting to realize it’s been months since I’ve ACTUALLY been all on my own! HA!”

And suddenly I felt my speech— my flying word-arrows— descending smoothly and quickly. Fast, softly, and silently they settled in kitchen, hovering in the air between my sister and I. As my sentiments hurdled toward the heart of my ache, my Loneliness… each sentence felt more vulnerable than the last.

“I…”

And as the dulled word-arrows rained down and fell dumbly on the conversation… my eyes began to pour as well. ‘And then Moses walked in…’ I woed to myself.

“I know I have you. You and Larissa. You’re basically just what I described, my forevers, my best friends. It’s just that I’m gonna be leaving… again. ” And no one to come with me… again. I finished.

“Don’t you want to go?”

There she goes again, with the simple and difficult questions.

Of course I do.

“Of course I do.”

It’s just—

“It’s just–”

It’s just what, Katrina?

And suddenly, just as I began at the counter, I was standing perfectly still.

I was restless for a reason. I launched foreword. It clicked, it all clicked, they all clicked…

“I have to go.” Eyes on the stairs behind her, I start walking toward the steps leading to my room, which I knew had a bed hosting an open  laptop with the words “And then Moses walked in” resting incomplete  atop the latest Microsoft Word document.

“Katrina, no, don’t—” Annika started up from her seat, eyes wild with concern.

I took a slow breath. “No, no… it’s okay.” I smiled softly and truthfully, locking her grey-blue eyes with my own watered-down version. “I just want to be alone— of all things, funny enough—for a second.”

What was it that I’d read in one of my old diaries the other day? “A spoonful of recklessness helps the philosophy pour out”? I quickly snagged a beer from the fridge. But a Pacifico will suffice for now. 

And, side-stepping her worry, I marched my Mary-Poppins ass upstairs to do something very, very brave.

 

 

 

 

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